This year, 2020, has been a year of focus for us and certainly one from which I can draw much insight. As I take time to reflect upon this year and consider the one ahead, here are a few of the key things that were reinforced for me this year and I will take with me into 2021 and beyond.
Offer support. Most businesses were affected by COVID-19, and ours were no exception. To ensure our businesses would survive, we immediately began taking measures to protect our employees and our cashflow. Fortunately, since one of our companies is an accounting firm, we were aware of many of the available government supports to businesses and able to research other supports for our clients. Taking advantage of these grants and loans has been important to our companies as we weathered 2020, and how we applied this information has helped our businesses thrive during a time when many others were permanently closing their doors. By reaching out to other businesses – including our commercial tenants – and passing along the information we learned about the available resources, we were able to help businesses that may not have otherwise made it through the shutdown. In doing this, we offered genuine and tangible support that will translate to lasting and beneficial relationships for years to come.
Foster growth. As a value-driven business and real estate investor, I have always understood that opportunity is linked with timing. In fact, given that early in the year (even before COVID-19 was upon us), there was already an expectation of a slowing economy to come, I entered 2020 expecting to make acquisitions throughout the year. When COVID-19 did hit, those acquisitions closed sooner and on better terms. Though we were able to help many businesses stay afloat by taking advantage of the available resources, sadly, some still found themselves struggling. We began looking for other ways to help. For instance, we are considering buying equity in a number of businesses that are struggling for cash, whether that will be for a portion or all of the equity will depend on each business’ individual needs and merits. This will enable the business to stay operating and maintain positive cash flow as well as bring our skills into the business. We recognized the effect COVID-19 could have on tourist towns and focused on one such tourist area – Owen Sound, Ontario. We already had some real estate in this area and were familiar with and saw the potential of investing in businesses in this area, building the community, and making valuable connections to increase its growth.
Think outside the box. This past year has forced many of us to think outside the box and do things differently, and I honestly believe that the creativity that developed, as a result, will make our businesses better, stronger, and more efficient as we move into 2021. As an out-of-the-box thinker for most of my life, it was exciting to see how many new, creative ideas were coming from the team and others.
Be prepared to pivot. Our businesses work in Canada and the U.S., and we conducted most of our events in person before the pandemic. This meant the majority of our events were held locally. Recognizing the limitations of live events, we were planning to move to an online version for some of our events, but we had not yet made any considerable effort in that direction. When COVID-19 forced the closure of all live events, our marketing company stepped up quickly to accommodate our clients’ evolving needs. This year made online visibility even more important and we were determined to stand out and apart from others. We set up a full studio in one of the rooms in our office to easily conduct online presentations and host virtual guests. This enabled us, at a time when many businesses were having to pull back to launch a podcast with the goal of driving more online visibility to our brand. Pivoting is essential and standing apart is crucial and made even harder when face-to-face interactions are not possible.
Work hard. Play harder. As someone who has worked in a home-based office and runs multiple businesses full-time, I understand better than most of the benefits and challenges of having employees work from home, which many of us decided to do to protect our employees and slow the spread of COVID-19. Although working from home offers employees some flexibility with their work schedule, it often prevents them from ever fully disconnecting, resulting in them working well into the evening and even on weekends. I found this to be the case with my employees throughout 2020, and I had to encourage them to take some downtime. In fact, instead of our usual company Holiday party this year, we are giving our staff a few extra days off with pay to ensure they get the rest they need to work effectively and be productive. Especially in a year with such high stress, having downtime needs to be a priority for us all.
For me, reflecting on 2020 means taking a moment to appreciate all the things I have learned or re-learned throughout the year and figuring out how to move forward with that knowledge into 2021 and beyond. Though it promises to be a period filled with challenges – with uncertainty in the stock markets, down-turning economies, and ongoing health concerns – 2021 will also be a year of finding opportunities, taking care of our families, looking after our team members, and finding solutions for our clients. Keeping sight of all the positives will help us navigate what the future has in store.
- 2020: The Year that Taught Everyone to Care a Little More - October 20, 2020
- The Value of Investing in Bricks and Mortar - June 19, 2020